The buildup to a possible return of baseball to the American stage is full of big issues.
Even without fans, how will the players, auxiliary personnel, the stadium workers from the grounds crew to parking lot security best be protected?
How will money be divided up in the age of COVID-19 coronavirus, when not just players and owners will lose big money, but their fans probably will have much less to spend.
Will fans watch games at home on television knowing that there are no fans in the stands?
When, if at all, will fans be able to be in the stands?
But there are smaller issues, too, and they are going to have to be dealt with. Oakland A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman, talking with NBC Sports Bay Area this week, considered the walk-off homer.
In the past, walk-off pieces have been the exact opposite of social distancing. The hero of the hour is swarmed at first base in a huge mob scene. A pie to the face or a bucket of Gatorade might be on the agenda. Hugs and high-5s abound.
The entire team is involved, including players who might have been in the clubhouse and who were in the bullpen. Everybody gets together.
Everybody getting together isn’t going to be on the 2020 agenda this time around.
“It’s going to be very hard not to celebrate, shake hands, hug each other, and do all the stuff we’re accustomed to doing,” Grossman told the network. “But it’s just something that we’re going to have to make an adjustment to. This is the new normal. We’ll get creative and come up with something.”
Grossman didn’t have a walk-off homer last year, but he did have a walk-off single on Aug. 16, one of 10 walk-off performances the A’s had in a 97-win season last year. Along the way were four walk-off homers, two by Matt Chapman and one each from Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson.
There were also walk-off singles from Chad Pinder and Ramon Laureano in addition to the one from Grossman, a double from Mark Canha, a grounder from Laureano and a walk from Khris Davis.
Those were all hugely celebratory. How walk-offs will work this year, assuming there is a this year, will be interesting to see. It’s not going to be easy to tone down that sudden desire to celebrate when the winning run comes home, particularly in a shorter season where wins would well have more impact.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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